American Express Co. has won a small victory over Visa U.S.A. before the National Advertising Review Board.

The advertising industry self-regulatory body upheld a December ruling that Visa could not call itself "the preferred lodging card."

Visa has used that tag line since 1997, primarily in trade publications for the hotel industry. It has now been pulled.

The review board said Visa had shown that more consumers use its brand than other cards but had failed to prove that Visa is "preferred by consumers, hotel merchants, and the lodging industry."

The dispute dates back to last year when American Express complained to the adverting industry self-regulatory channels. First it filed with the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which ruled in Amex's favor in December.

Visa appealed to the National Advertising Review Board. To substantiate its claims, Visa showed it had the greatest sales volume and that an "overwhelming majority" of merchants accept the Visa brand, said Visa spokesman Lorne Fisher.

According to the board's written decision, "The best way to find out what consumers prefer is to ask them. Visa failed to do this."

Mr. Fisher said Visa is complying with the ruling, "although we feel it is clear that Visa is the No. 1 lodging card in the U.S."

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